Boy George recently dropped his first album in 18 years, “This Is What I Do.” Though he’s been active as a DJ, 2014 marked his first U.S. tour in support of his own music in well over a decade. He played the Chicago House of Blues on April 26, one of only a handful U.S. cities during a brief nine-date tour.
While House of Blues is generally a fine venue for live performances, the show was booked for an 11:30 p.m. start, sans opener, with an advertised before-party. As such, the crowd was a bit lubricated by the time Boy George took the stage and a little loud for the lounge-style performance. George opened with “King of Everything,” the lead-track from his new album, and battled with a noticeable din emanating from the wings of the club. The noise—annoying to more than just the fans—drew some ire from George who asked, “Did you come here to talk? Why even come to the show?” The subdued nature of this performance would have been better suited for the Chicago Theater.
A seven-piece band, complete with a trio of horns, and a female backing vocalist supported George. They provided a strong musical foundation that ranged from reggae infused beats to classic blues.
1980s era music fans expecting to see a rebirth of Culture Club, or those hoping to rekindle a past-life, were sorely disappointed. Boy George aptly focused on material from “This Is What I Do,” deriving half of the evening’s set from the new album; while tossing in a handful of covers that inspired the 80s pop icon. Music from Dylan, George Harrison, Lou Reed and even Yoko Ono, amongst others, was peppered into a set that lasted just under two hours.
George still maintains a solid singing voice, though he’s definitely dropped an octave and appeared to be somewhat gravelly at times. An hour passed before “Church of the Poison Mind,” the first of three Culture Club songs, was performed. The listless crowd drew life from its opening notes and quickly began to dance and sing along just as he ended the set proper.
He returned for the first of two encores to perform “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” The song that catapulted Culture Club into the musical stratosphere decades ago was reworked with reggae hooks that brought it in-line with his newer material. “Karma Chameleon” and a lively T-Rex cover of “Get It On” were the other highlights of the encore sets.